Upgrading to SharePoint 2016 : 101


How do we upgrade to SharePoint 2016? This is a question I’ve been asked a lot lately.

Before I answer the question, I usually start by asking one of my own. Have you considered moving to SharePoint Online? Some people have a very good reason for choosing to stay on-premises but many don’t. Let’s consider both scenarios.

Scenario 1: Staying on-premises

The simplest option is a Content Database migration. This is the same tried and tested method used to upgrade from older versions of SharePoint e.g. SP2010 to SP2013. If you are moving from SP2010, you will need to do an interim upgrade to SP2013 first, just for the content database upgrades.

Steps:

  1. Install a new SharePoint 2016 Farm. If you need high-availability or want to take advantage of mini-roles to reduce downtime during patching, you’ll need a minimum of 4 SharePoint servers. If that isn’t needed then a single server farm is possible, but do your homework before going down this path.
  2. You may also need to upgrade your SQL Server depending on the version.
  3. Once installed, create a new Web Application
  4. Restore the Content Database(s) from the SP2013 farm to the new SQL Server
  5. Install any third-party solutions. Mega Menus, Workflow tools, Custom web parts etc
  6. In Central Admin, attach the new database to your new SP2016 web application. SharePoint will automatically upgrade the database schema during this process, which can take time, especially if the database is big.
  7. IISRESET
  8. Test everything

You may decide that an in-place upgrade isn’t practical or possible. In this case, you can setup a new farm and then use a migration tool (DocAve, MetaLogix, ShareGate etc) to move the content across. This can be a time consuming process but is worth consideration if you need to restructure content or if you have a lot of customisation that you don’t want to bring across as part of the upgrade.

Scenario 2: Moving to SharePoint Online

Moving to SharePoint Online often requires more planning upfront. There are some things you can do in SharePoint server, that can’t be done online or require a rethink. Here’s a short list of common differences, but there are others that may apply too:

–          Server side solutions cannot be deployed to the cloud

–          Site Collections can’t use explicit paths (URL’s to sites may change)

–          You cannot change the URL from https://mytenantname.sharepoint.com

–          User Profile Sync back to Active Directory is not supported

–          SQL Server Reporting Services integration is not supported

–          Email enabled document libraries are not supported

–          Many third-party mega menus aren’t supported (yet)

–          Integration with other systems may need to be updated

This is by no-means a full list, but it does give you an idea of where pain could start.

You will need to develop a strategy for migrating content across.

–          What content are you migrating?

–          How much content is there?

–          What tool are you going to use?

I highly recommend using a migration tool such as Metalogix, ShareGate or DocAve. Unless you have a trivial amount of content, these tools will save you time. They can map metadata from your old site to the new one or copy entire sites and site collections across. All of these tools handle version history and system metadata such as created date and created by.

Steps:

  1. Identify what you will be migrating and determine if it includes features that may not be supported. Workarounds or alternative solutions may be needed to address those issues.
  2. Ensure Azure AD Connect is setup and syncing users and groups
  3. I recommend that you move Exchange across before SharePoint if possible. There are some things in the Delve profiles which work better
  4. Setup you SharePoint Online tenant
  5. Create site collections
  6. Use a migration tool to copy over the sites, lists and libraries from on-premises.
  7. Setup navigation
  8. Check site security

You can do this process in stages e.g. pre-copy the bulk of the content and then migrate over the changes before you ‘go live’.

I should stress that in many cases you will have other challenges to address as you migrate sites across. Give yourself time to test and find solutions for those things that don’t migrate nicely.

Moving to SharePoint Online will give you many advantages over the long term and reduce the amount of infrastructure needed for your SharePoint farm. For many of us the chances are you will move to the cloud eventually anyway, so why delay?

If you have any good tips, please share in the comments below.

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